Cuba. The year was dominated by several initiatives to open the Cuban economy to the outside world. First, preparatory negotiations were held in Havana at the end of April between representatives of the EU and Cuba’s Foreign Ministry on a new bilateral agreement on political dialogue and cooperation. The position taken by the EU in 1996 on unconditional democratic reforms for further cooperation has, in practice, already been annihilated by 18 separate bilateral agreements with Cuba by 18 member states.
According to Countryaah.com, Cuba population in 2020 is estimated at 11,326,627. Pressure to open relations further increased after the Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans visited the country in January and urged the EU to revise its stance. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said something similar during his visit in April, when he met both his Cuban colleague Bruno Rodríguez and President Raúl Castro. However, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton dampened hopes of a rapid change in foreign relations as long as democracy and human rights issues remained to be resolved.
As part of the closer relations with the West, in April, Cuba’s Congress approved a new law that facilitates foreign investment in eleven important social sectors, including agriculture, energy and mining, and tourism and transport. Shortly thereafter, a Cuban delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Ileana Nuñez Mordoche made a tour of the most important countries in the EU to pay attention and prepare the way for the law, which came into force on 30 June.
The intensified relations between Cuba and the EU also affected the far more complicated relations between Cuba and the United States. In May, fifty American former government officials, retired officers and business leaders in an open letter urged President Barack Obama to improve the bilateral relations of both countries. Already a week later, Cuba was visited by Thomas Donahue, head of the US Chamber of Commerce – the world’s most powerful private business lobby group – and one of the most eager advocates for the lifting of the US half-century-old trade embargo on Cuba.
At the same time as Donahue of exile Cubans in Florida was accused of participating in a regime-friendly jippo organized by Cuba’s leadership, he stressed that he was allowed to freely travel around and meet representatives of both the state and private sectors. However, like the EU representative, US Vice President Joe Biden emphasized that relations cannot be normalized until democracy and human rights issues are resolved.